The Colorado Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday on the question of whether former President Donald J. Trump is barred from holding office again under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which disqualifies people who engaged in insurrection against the Constitution after taking an oath to support it.
Several of the seven justices appeared skeptical of arguments made by a lawyer for Mr. Trump, including the core one that a district court judge relied on in a ruling last month ordering Mr. Trump to be included on the Colorado primary ballot: that Section 3 did not apply to the presidency. The Colorado Supreme Court is hearing an appeal of that ruling as part of a lawsuit brought by Republican and independent voters in the state who, in seeking to keep Mr. Trump off the ballot, have contended the opposite.
“How is that not absurd?” Justice Richard L. Gabriel asked of the notion that the lawmakers who wrote Section 3 in the wake of the Civil War had intended to disqualify insurrectionists from every office except the nation’s highest.
Section 3 lists a number of positions an insurrectionist is disqualified from holding but not explicitly the presidency, so challenges to Mr. Trump’s eligibility rely on the argument that the presidency is included in the phrases “officer of the United States” and “any office, civil or military, under the United States.” It also does not specify who gets to decide whether someone is an insurrectionist: election officials and courts, as the petitioners argue, or Congress itself, as Mr. Trump’s team argues.